How To Craft a Winning Commercial Real Estate Cover Letter
If you’re trying to make a career move within commercial real estate or trying to land your first job in the industry, this can prove to be a pretty tricky task.
Commercial real estate hiring managers are often looking for what they refer to as “No Risk Hires”, essentially those people who have done the job they’re applying for in the past.
But even if you don’t have direct experience doing everything that would be required of you in this new role from day one, all is not lost, and you can still set yourself up for success in landing the commercial real estate job you’re looking for.
In this article, we’ll break down how your cover letter can make (or break) your chances of landing an interview at top commercial real estate firms, and three things to add to that cover letter to land more interviews (even in a competitive job market).
If video is more your thing, you can watch the video version of this article here.
Why Commercial Real Estate Cover Letters Matter
When you’re applying for roles in commercial real estate, it’s easy for your resume to go into a black hole, never to hear back from the job poster again.
And with the commercial real estate industry becoming more institutionalized each year, the initial resume screening process is more competitive than it’s been in the last decade, making it much, much easier to end up with your own resume in that black hole of silence.
However, one tool that can help you sidestep that black hole is something that’s often overlooked by commercial real estate job seekers firing off dozens of applications per week, and that is the cover letter.
While your resume can do a great job of highlighting your experience and skill sets, a cover letter allows you to clearly tell your story about why you’re the best fit for the role, and gives the hiring manager an opportunity to get to know you better on a personal and professional level (even before getting to the interview phase).
With that said, writing a cover letter definitely isn’t the easiest thing in the world, and it’s tough to narrow down exactly what you want to put into the three or four paragraphs that are tasked with telling your story.
So, to make this process a little easier, this article will walk through three essential elements of any commercial real estate cover letter, and how these things might apply to your own specific situation.
Commercial Real Estate Cover Letters Should Be Concise
Before we get into the first point on this list, as a blanket statement overall, I want to emphasize the point that a commercial real estate cover letter should be concise, brief, and to-the-point. Just a few paragraphs will be sufficient, and anything more than a page is usually a good indication that your cover letter might be a little bit too lengthy (and might lose the attention of the reader as a result).
Treat each word on your commercial real estate cover letter as if it costs $100, and delete anything that isn’t absolutely necessary to tell your story in the way you want to tell it.
If you can do this, you cover letter can be an extremely powerful tool to grab the attention of a hiring manager or recruiter, and can help you set yourself apart from other applicants in a competitive job environment.
Let’s get started.
Commercial Real Estate Cover Letters Should Clearly State Why You’re Interested in the Role
The first point on this list is to start your commercial real estate cover letter off with why the role interests you over other opportunities in the job market.
It is extremely time consuming for commercial real estate firms to interview job candidates, and it’s not uncommon for online job postings to see several hundred applications come through the door for a single open position.
This means that recruiters and hiring managers need to set up some base “filters” to screen candidates quickly, and to make sure they have the time and bandwidth available to review all resumes submitted for the role.
One of the most common filters employers use, especially for companies which spend significant time or money training new employees, is whether or not the candidate shows clear interest in the company itself, and where the role will take them.
This means that if you’re applying for an asset management role at a small, start-up company that acquires and manages office buildings, this is your opportunity to talk about your career interests in office asset management, and your desire to work for a growing, entrepreneurial firm.
And on your cover letter for this position, you might consider starting this off with something along the lines of:
“Thank you for the opportunity to apply for the Asset Management Associate role within your firm. My experience in office asset management working for large, institutional companies, coupled with my interest in contributing to the growth of a small, entrepreneurial real estate investment firm, makes this opportunity extremely exciting to me.”
Anything that can show that you’re serious about the role, and you’re not just firing off a bunch of generic resumes and cover letters to any firm that is even remotely related to a place you’d want to work, is going to help you a lot in passing through this initial screening process.
Intent Matters More Than You Think
While this might seem like a really trivial thing, I can promise you, this matters.
And despite how much this matters, a lot of people just don’t take this part of the process all too seriously.
I’ve reviewed multiple cover letters when hiring for positions where the candidate included another firm’s name when referring to our company, making it blatantly clear that they put zero time or thought into applying for the position.
I’ve also reviewed cover letters where candidates talked about their career interests in roles completely unrelated to our firm, or even unrelated to the real estate industry altogether.
Even though this seems extremely simple and basic, just adding one or two sentences solidifying that your career interests are aligned with the role can go a long, long way.
What If You’re Not Sure What You Want To Do Long-Term Yet?
A question you might be asking at this point is, “What if I’m not sure if this is really where I want to take my career long term?”
It makes sense that you might not have 100% certainty on where you want to be 30 years from now, especially if you’re just graduating from college or a few years out of school.
And with that said (especially for analyst and associate roles), you need to show a definite interest in the career path you’re currently looking to pursue within the firm, but not necessarily an in-depth explanation of how you plan to lock yourself into this specific career path forever.
Just make sure that you’re clear on paper about the job function you want to do right now, that you’re excited about the company you’ll be working with, and that you can see yourself growing within the firm in the future.
Even if that doesn’t materialize, if you’re able to convey this within your cover letter, this will make the cost in time and money to interview, hire, and train you much more “worth it” to that employer than if it came off as if you weren’t committed to the process and were flip-flopping on where you wanted to go over the next 3-5 years.
Commercial Real Estate Cover Letters Should Make It Clear Why You’re The Perfect Fit For The Role
Once you’ve talked about why the role interests you, the next paragraph in your commercial real estate cover letter is your opportunity to talk about the skill sets you have, the experiences you’ve had, and the things you’ve accomplished which have prepared you directly for the role you’re looking to take on.
I mentioned earlier in this article that employers are looking for “No Risk Hires”, and this is your opportunity to show the employer that you would fall into this category (even if you haven’t done the exact job before).
This section of your cover letter should explain 1-3 key skill sets, experiences, or things you’ve accomplished that are directly applicable to the responsibility bullet points contained in the job description.
This is your chance to show that you’ve done the job (or something similar) before, and could step in to the role successfully on day one with minimal training and oversight.
Again, even if your experience doesn’t perfectly align with everything you’ll be doing in the position, this is your opportunity to highlight that experience that does make you a clear fit for the role.
This could be a project you worked on, a responsibility you had, or any sort of adjacent skill set that would show your proficiency in the key tasks you’ll be responsible for on a day-to-day basis if you were hired at the firm.
What This Looks Like in Practice
For example, if you’re applying for an Acquisitions Analyst role at a multifamily investment firm, you might want to include any experience you have with underwriting multifamily properties, putting together offering memorandums and equity investor packages, managing the due diligence process, building pro forma models in Excel, or anything else that will be expected of you when you step into the role.
Again, if you’re feeling overwhelmed here or saying, “I don’t have all of the experience they’re looking for,” you don’t have to check every single one of these boxes for this to work.
For example, maybe you’re applying for that multifamily Acquisitions Analyst role, and you only have experience in corporate finance outside of real estate.
Well, in that corporate finance role, you probably worked quite a bit in Excel, you may have created pro forma models and cash flow projections, and your experience has very likely provided you with a strong understanding of how to interpret a cash flow statement and basic accounting principles.
You’ll also have a unique perspective and training coming from a different industry, which is often welcomed by commercial real estate firms looking to uncover their own blind spots.
Your cover letter is also an excellent opportunity for you to highlight any “must-have” skill sets that you’re currently building, by highlighting any coursework you’re currently working on, or certifications or licenses that are currently in progress.
Overall, this paragraph is where you’re able to describe to the employer why you’re a clear fit for the role you’re applying for, and how the transition will make perfect sense based on where you’ve been, what you’re able to do, and where you’re looking to go in the future.
Commercial Real Estate Cover Letters Should Start and End With Gratitude
Finally, once you’ve made your interests clear and you’ve shown your ability to do the job successfully, the final thing on this list I’d recommend is to make sure to start and end your commercial real estate cover letter with humility and gratitude.
Yes, I know this sounds a little bit “out there” or woo woo, but stick with me here.
Hiring managers do not want someone to come in on day one and act like they know everything and their way is always the right way, and this is especially true at the analyst and associate level.
In most cases, if you’re applying for a job requiring anywhere up to about 5 years of experience, the expectation will actually be that you’ll learn the company’s processes and way of doing things, and they’ll want to make sure that you’re still relatively malleable as far as how you do your job.
Cover letters, like resumes, are a delicate balance of showing confidence, but also not appearing cocky or arrogant.
You want to be clear about the things you can do and the experiences you’ve had, but you also want to be careful not to overstate or embellish experiences or skill sets you have (which is often more apparent than you’d think to experienced hiring managers).
The best way to go about walking this fine line is to express your excitement about applying your existing skill set to add value to the team, but also to mention how attracted you are to the learning and growth opportunities within the organization, as well.
Companies want a team player that is always willing to improve, someone who can assess their own strengths and weaknesses, and a person who acknowledges that they aren’t perfect or right 100% of the time.
And the candidate who clearly states their abilities and skill sets (and does so with humility) shows much better than the person who tries to make it sound like they know everything about everything, and clearly exaggerates their experiences and what they can do.
Need More Help With Your Commercial Real Estate Cover Letter?
If you’re putting together cover letters and sending out your resume to commercial real estate firms, I hope you found this helpful in making some tweaks to your current process, and helps you spot some opportunities for improvement.
And if you want additional help with crafting your commercial real estate cover letters or your resume, make sure to check out our premium training platform, Break Into CRE Academy.
A membership to the Academy includes private, members-only, email-based career coaching, so you can ask questions and get feedback on your resume and cover letters before applying for commercial real estate jobs, and you’ll also get instant access to our complete library of video courses on real estate financial modeling and analysis, so you can build the technical skill sets you’ll need to ace Excel modeling interviews and land jobs at top real estate private equity, brokerage, and lending firms.
Thanks so much for reading – good luck with your applications!